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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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420 Squadron Crest
15.08.1943 No. 420 Squadron Wellington X HE524 F/O. Arthur B. Long

Operation: Pizzo and Lamezia, Italy

Date: 15th August 1943 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 420 Squadron (Snowy Owl - RCAF)

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE524

Code: PT-?

Base: Kairouan/ Zina Tunisia

Location: Not known - lost without trace

Pilot: F/O. Arthur Bebbington Long J/14874 RCAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed

Obs: F/O. Edgar Lloyd Fairweather J/21535 RCAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Arthur Brown J/9906 RCAF Age 27. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Earl Willard Dickinson J/11845 RCAF Age ? Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Harrison Garbutt R/108830 RCAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed


420 squadron diary:

August 14: On this night ops came through for fourteen aircraft were detailed to areas around Pizzo and Lamezia. One did not take off. Eleven bombers successfully attacked villages, railways, beaches and small boats in good visibility. Crews observed many fires. Two aircraft failed to return. Bomb loads for the attack were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6SBC (8x40). One aircraft detailed to Larmezia carried a 4000 lb. cookie. Take off times varied from 19:03 to 20:14. Attacks appeared to be successful with fires and explosions observed. Opposition was minimal. One crew over Pizzo reported what appeared to be a plane crash. Two crews did not return: HE524: Pilot P/O. AB Long, nav F/O. E/I Fairweather, ba F/O. A Brown, wop F/O. CW Dickinson, ag Sgt. WH Garbutt; and in LN431: Pilot Sgt. JM Parr, nav Sgt. DJ Nettle, ba Sgt. WCH Dadge, wop Sgt. ESR Norgrove, ag Sgt. DD Boyd. All were killed. One crew was reported missing from the missions but were reported safe in Sicily after crashing their plane. 70 bombers were required to attack the beaches from Messina to Acqualadrone. These orders were cancelled and the beaches from San Giovanni to Palmi and the area of Pizzo were targeted instead. 25 crews from 331 Wing were detailed to attack the Pizzo target. Nineteen bombers succeeded in attacking the area with 32 tons of bombs. Fires were started in the towns and on the beaches. A barge was sunk with a direct hit. Two crews from 420 Squadron were reported missing. A signal was sent from Group asking night fighters to avoid target areas.

His nephew, Ron Long submitted the story of placing the plaque to us in September 2017:

“Arthur Bebbington Long was just 23 years of age when the Vickers Wellington bomber he was piloting disappeared over the Mediterranean on August 15, 1943.

I never knew my uncle Arthur but somehow he was always a part of our family. A small photo of a smiling, handsome young man in RCAF uniform had a permanent place on the mantelpiece of our living room as my brothers and I were growing up. So as kids we knew Arthur and his story.

Although we only recently became aware of it, the province of Saskatchewan has, since 1947, had a wonderful program in place under which geographical features in the province are named for fallen servicemen. So far some 3700 lakes, bays, rivers, creeks, rapids, inlets, islands, falls, ridges, peninsulas, channels and hills have been named and these “Geo-Memorials” now permanently engrave the face of the province with the names of her war dead.

In 2005 my brother Gary who lives in White City, near Regina came across the great book by Doug Chisholm titled ‘Their Names Live On’. In the listings at the back of the book Gary not only discovered our uncle’s name but also the co-ordinates of the lake that had been named for Arthur. Officially the lake was named Long Lake but we quickly learned that there are no less than seven Long Lakes in Saskatchewan. Within the family the lake unofficially became Arthur’s Lake. A Google Earth search showed the lake far to the north of La Ronge and it appeared remote and totally isolated - unconnected to any larger body of water. I immediately knew that I wanted to go there. Fortunately two of my brothers, Gary and Doug were similarly intrigued by the prospect. As part of our preparations we decided to take a bronze plaque to mount on the lakeshore.

In July 2007 we finally made the trip!

We had little idea of what to expect but we did have hopeful expectations. We hoped to find a pristine lake, perhaps never visited before, with lots of big and hungry Northern Pike.

Doug traveled from his home near Ottawa and I came from Vancouver to meet at Gary’s place. From there we drove 1000 km almost straight North to a small dot on the map called Points North Landing at the very end of the all-weather road. The last six hours of this trip involved a bone jarring gravel road that coincided with the only heavy rain we encountered on the trip.

Left: Arthur and Marie. (courtesy Ron Long and family)

Points North proved to be an amazingly busy place with float planes, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft arriving and departing every few minutes. I overheard one just arrived pilot say to another “There are more planes here than in Saskatoon”. Aircrews and ground crews worked at a frenetic pace but they were all young and appeared to thrive on the hectic activity.

The final leg of our trip was to be a forty-five minute flight by bush plane scheduled to depart at 10AM on Friday the 13th. Not too surprisingly we ran into a little bad luck. We were informed that the rain on the previous day had disrupted the schedule and our flight would be delayed for two hours. Two hours later the afternoon wind had come up and while not strong enough to interfere with normal flight operations it was problematic for us because our plane would be carrying a canoe tied to the floats.

At six PM our 10 AM flight finally took off and we were on our way.

The flight was smooth and revealed thousands of lakes in every shape and size stretching to the horizon. It was easy to see that there were lakes aplenty to be designated as Geo-Memorials. Soon the familiar (from the maps) outline of Arthur’s Lake was below us. As the pilot circled to land we eagerly craned our necks to take in as much detail as possible. The lakeshore appeared to be low and marshy with no obvious camping areas so we found ourselves deposited on shore with rather limited prospects. Doug and Gary set off in the canoe in search of a better place to camp but returned without success.

A raised esker inland from our landing place proved to have excellent campsites but to reach it we had to carry all of our gear across 100 meters of hummocky bog. With no better choice we made the effort and by 10 PM had our tents set up. The one thing we didn’t have to worry about was darkness. That far north and in the middle of summer the days are long and in fact we never saw total darkness. A bowl of granola for dinner then into our sleeping bags eagerly speculating on what tomorrow would reveal. The utter silence of the northern night punctuated by the echoing call of a Loon was very conducive to sound sleep. I slept better in the tent than I normally do at home.

The morning was sunny and hot and that set the standard for our entire time on the lake. Our priority for the first day was to locate a suitable rock on which to mount the plaque. This had been a source of concern for the last couple of days because all the lakes we had seen from the road and on the flight had low marshy shorelines with virtually no large rocks. As our pilot had circled Arthur’s Lake on our approach I had noticed some vertical rocks in Southeast Bay so we launched the canoe and headed in that direction. Doug and Gary are experienced canoeists so naturally took up the paddles. I rode stylishly in the bottom of the canoe like some voyageur Poo-bah.

The lake had, for the most part, a low and rocky shoreline. During the last glaciation the ice had broken up the granite hills into boulders and then bulldozed the boulders into an even layer covering hundreds of kilometres in the area of Arthur’s Lake. Back of the lakeshore was a desert of Black Spruce five to ten meters in height. In between the trees were a few tough Labrador Tea shrubs and ground hugging Caribou Moss. And that was all. We saw very little in the way of birds and animals. The North is vast and the critters widely scattered.

We were lucky – extremely lucky to find a perfect granite rock face. It is fairly prominent, near the water and had rocks at the base on which we could land the canoe and stand to work.

Mounting the plaque required four bolt holes and we had brought a small gasoline generator to power the electric rock drill. It was hard work but fortunately Doug and Gary are the types that can do anything with their hands so in relatively short order the holes were completed and the bolts for the plaque secured in place with industrial adhesive. We were and are very proud of the result.

As Doug began preparing the rock face a perfect, newly emerged, White Admiral butterfly appeared and landed on his pant leg. As Doug moved his feet the butterfly fluttered off but immediately landed on his other leg. That butterfly stayed with us for the entire hour and a half that we worked there. It flew around us and examined the canoe in great detail – landing on various parts of the canoe and on the gear that it held. It even landed on the noisy, vibrating generator and allowed me to approach for close-up photographs. This was pretty remarkable behaviour for a butterfly. We returned the following day to complete the work and the butterfly was still there. An hour later as we finished and pushed off in the canoe the butterfly flew by in front of the plaque. Gary said “I’d like to video that” so we paused about six feet from the shore. The butterfly flew out to us, circled the canoe and landed on the bow – directly in front of Gary’s camera. When he finished shooting, the butterfly returned to shore. As we again started to paddle away the butterfly once more came out to the canoe. Butterflies do not venture out over the water and for good reason –it was dangerous. There were numerous large Dragonflies patrolling the shoreline and they would not hesitate to attack a butterfly. But in spite of the danger the butterfly again came out and circled the canoe - seemingly saying farewell.

Arthur's nephews, Doug, Ron and Gary Long

The book ‘Butterflies of Saskatchewan’ informed me that White Admirals are not uncommon in the province but raised considerable questions as to why “our” butterfly was hanging around the area of the plaque. To quote the book: The White Admiral abounds in Poplar woods. There are no Poplar woods and only scattered, stunted and heavily browsed Poplars in the area. I saw none near the rock face. It commonly visits flowers and mud puddles. There were no flowers or mud puddles. The inexplicable behavior of this butterfly left us in not the slightest doubt that Arthur’s spirit had been with us and participated in the creation of his memorial.

Shortly after leaving Memorial Point our hopes of a pristine lake were dashed along with our good feelings about the plaque. Rounding a corner we came upon a butchered tree festooned with surveyors tape. It was a claim stake and nothing could have been uglier in that setting. On subsequent days we found garbage – two large plastic fish boxes that had been thrown into the lake and washed up on shore. It was a reminder that all the activity at Points North is not benign. It is all directed either towards mineral exploitation or fishing. Either way it is bringing people to the north that don’t belong. All terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and floatplanes have made even the most remote lakes accessible to people with no wilderness ethic. We had discussed the possibility of Doug’s grandchildren visiting the plaque when they were our age. It was now obvious to us that a true wilderness experience will be impossible for them in fifty years.

There were fish in the lake – lots of them – Northern Pike – and they were ravenous. But the lake full of lunkers that we hoped for did not exist. The fish were small (40-50 cm) but feisty. One sent Gary’s lure flying back at him so accurately that it hit him in the head. The fish were so numerous and easy to catch that we soon removed the barbs from the hooks then clipped off two of the treble hooks. Even with only one barbless hook the action was fast and fun. Often two lines had fish on at the same time and we brought back all the classic fish stories – about the one that hit the lure four times before hooking itself; or the one that followed the lure to the tip of the rod and came right out of the water as the rod was lifted; or the lure that got hung up on the shore, was jerked free and as it plopped back into the water landed, literally, in the mouth of a fish. But one fish story was new and without photos would not be believed.

Gary pointed out what appeared to be a fish flopping, belly up on the surface. Doug was able to pick it out of the water and we were astounded at what he had in his hands. Apparently one pike had tried to swallow another of about the same size. Instead of the victim going down the attackers throat it’s head emerged through the gill slit and became lodged there. Both fish were helpless and would soon have died. Doug was able to easily separate them and when dropped back into the water they shot off in different directions apparently non-the worse for their strange ordeal.

The lake is about four kilometres long and two wide. We explored the entire shoreline giving unofficial names to features as we encountered them. We found very large beaver lodges at each end but no sign of recent activity. We found a lovely outlet stream at the tip of North-West Arm and followed it for about half an hour. On our return to the canoe we discovered a Moose submerged in the lake with only his head and huge rack above water.

Right: Arthur and Marie - wedding day (courtesy Ron Long)

On shore along North East Arm we discovered a rather unusual inlet to the lake. Water was running under our feet, through the boulder layer from another lake that was at a slightly higher elevation. Soil had built up across the surface of the boulders but we could hear the gurgle of water below. A grove of Birch trees had grown up over this water source. There were a very few small Birch trees scattered throughout the area but here was a thick stand of tall trees with 30 cm trunks. Below the trees were usual woodland plants such as Canada Bunchberry, Pink Pyrola, Violets and Gooseberries. The grove was literally an Oasis in the Black Spruce desert.

Other than the single Moose the only animals we saw were Red Squirrels. Doug did discover a bear den that we crawled into. It was an amazing excavation in that rocky ground with plenty of room for my six-foot length. Fortunately the bear had long since left the area and we had no nocturnal visits.

We were up early on our last morning and our bush plane appeared overhead right on schedule. A last circle of the lake for photos and we started the long journey back to Regina.

The trip was exceedingly meaningful for all three of us. It was a great adventure but more than that we feel that by installing the plaque we have contributed to the memory of Arthur and the other Serviceman who did not return from the war. We consider ourselves fortunate to have visited the lake now while it is still relatively wild”.

Also lost from the Squadron Wellington LN431 Flown by Sgt. John Martland Parr 1431080 RAFVR from Ashton-on-Ribble, Preston, Lancashire, England - Missing with all his other 4 crew.

Above: F/O. Long with Panel 10 Malta Memorial

Burial details:

F/O. Arthur Bebbington Long. Malta Memorial. Panel 10. Column 1. Son of John and Selina Marion Long and husband of Marie Long (née Carmichael) of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

F/O. Edgar Lloyd Fairweather. Malta Memorial. Panel 10. Column 1. Son of Major and Mrs. V. Wray Fair-weather of Decarie Boulevard, Toronto, Canada.

F/O. Arthur Brown. Malta Memorial. Panel 10. Column 1. Son of John Brown, and of Margaret Brown, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

F/O. Earl Willard Dickinson. Malta Memorial. Panel 10. Column 1. Son of William H. and Elvena M. Dickinson, of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.

Fl/Sgt. William Harrison Garbutt. Malta Memorial. Panel 11. Column 2. Son of William John and Annie Garbutt, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

For further details our thanks to Ron and the family of F/O. Arthur Bebbington Long.

KTY - 13.02.2018

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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